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An overview of the Freedom of Information Act as it affects the British Library.

The British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest libraries. Our collections include more than 150 million items, in over 400 languages, to which three million new items are added every year. We house books, magazines, manuscripts, maps, music scores, newspapers, patents, databases, philatelic items, prints and drawings and sound recordings.

Much of the information within our Collections is reasonably accessible to users and it is Library policy that staff will allocate up to 30 minutes research time to information enquiries relating to our Collections. This may be followed, if necessary, by referral either to an internal priced research service, or to an external research agency. The purpose of such research is to discover whether or not the Library holds the information being sought and to provide the information whenever possible. The Library will continue to provide advice and assistance to users undertaking their own research on the collections we hold. For those enquiries that relate to information contained within our corporate records, the Freedom of Information Act applies. 

The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to recorded information held by public authorities and obliges them to disclose information, subject to a range of exemptions. Applicants have the right:

  • To be told whether the information exists
  • To receive the information within 20 working days.

For further details on how the British Library will respond to requests, our Freedom of Information Policy can be read in full here.

Making a request for information

One of the aims of the Act is that all public authorities should be clear and proactive about the information they make available. Section 19 of the Act requires the preparation of a Publication Scheme. The British Library's publication scheme can be viewed online or made available in hard copy from pages printed from the website

Under the Freedom of Information Act you can apply to see information that is not listed in the Publication Scheme. Send us a letter, fax, or email requesting the information and, provided it is not covered by one of the exemptions in the Act, we will provide you with that information as soon as possible, or in any event within 20 working days.

When making a request for information include the following details:

  • Your name and address
  • The information would you like to see
  • The format you would prefer to have the information in. We will make every effort to send you the information in the requested format, although in some cases may not be able to do this.

Please email us at

Exemptions under the Act

Although you may request any information we hold, there are a few exemptions under the Act that mean that we may not be able to disclose the information you need. If we decide that we cannot release the information requested, we will explain which exemption is relevant in this case.


We should be grateful for any comments you may have about our Publication Scheme. Please email us at or contact us at the address below:

Freedom of Information
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)843 208 1144

Complaints and appeals procedure

If you are dissatisfied with our response, you should appeal to us directly by contacting:

The Chief Executive
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome or the handling of the internal review conducted by the Library, you may appeal directly to the Information Commissioner by contacting:

FoI Compliance Team (complaints)
Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Cheshire SK9 5AF


PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.

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